• PPP The Second Time Around
    The Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 passed in December contained $284 billion for the renewed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Click here to read the article.

dethatching or aerating?????


LawnSite Senior Member
baltimore, md
I just did a search and read alot of you guys said that dethatching is a pain in the arse....Some said they try to talk there customers into aerating instead of dethatching?? Im new here so be easy please =), i thought both of these were two totally different services??? If you talk them into an aerating how do you justify not doing the dethathcing the customer originally called for? I thought dethatching raked the grass clean of all dead grass and weeds and matted grass laying on the soil??? I though aeration was to break up soil, add oxygen and provide places for seed germination????? PLEASE HELP........PLEASE??


LawnSite Bronze Member
SE Pennsylvania
From what I've found...if a regular core aeration is done this breaks up any thatch that might have been building up allowing it to more readily decompose. Of course there are times where the thatch is so built up that this may not be the case, but with regular maintenance thatch should really not become a problem. Personally, I aerate every other year and with this an overseeding. Have not had to aerate any of my lawns as yet and some are going on 7 years under my control. I have thatched lawns in the past....and yes...it IS a pain the arse!!! :)


LawnSite Fanatic
N.E. Wisconsin
Its only a pain if you are doing the work manually. Walking behind anything is a pain. If you have to blow the thatch into a pile and pick it up its a pain.

I'm not bragging but if you have a machine like I do I can thatch and vacuum it up at a rate of 3 or 4 to one compared to a guy doing it manually and the lawn looks great. Of course I use a Walker GHS. I get an average of 15 per 1k for a dethatching and more if I take the stuff away. I can do a 10k lawn in less than an hour gate down to gate up. Walkers aren't the best for balls out production mowing but they cant be beat for thatching , leaf removal or just plain bagging grass.

Thatching is done here in the spring and aerating as a rule is done in the fall. Its relatively easy to sell the dethatching as everyone wants their lawn looking good come spring.
Aerating in this area is needed but harder to sell. Heavy clay soil that compacts real well. Its been a banner growth year because of constant moisture and no very hot temps so just about every lawn is looking good. Everything is growing as it has since April. After I vacuum up al these leaves I'm gonna sit and get fat for 3 months.


LawnSite Silver Member
dirty jersey
guntruck:this is what i did this yr. i did not use my thatcher this season for thatching,i used it once to till seed in a lawn that was 10%grass and 90% bare soil.because i work alone (help on the weekends)i refuse to dethatch with that ______ thatcher. all the lawns that had problems with thatch i aerate(core).i explained to thc cust. that it is more benafisal (weres spell check when you need it) and less disruptive then thatching. studys have shown that by removing a core you are removing more thatch than thatching alone, leaving the cores you are returning the micro orginisiom in that soiled plug that will help dicompose the thatch,and after this yr. i feel that it gives a good place for seeding. i will go over a lawn 10 times with an aerator before i touch a thatcher again. what
helped me a lot was
1. info papers from lesco
2. info papers(hand-outs) from turfco,and ryan
3. guys that took the time to answer my post on aerating, i owe it all to them.
got to go


LawnSite Platinum Member
Good post Anthony! When you are done aerating, your usually 100% done. When your done thatching, you still have to get rid of all the lawn debris. I won't thatch!!


LawnSite Bronze Member
Somerset, NJ
Based on these great previous posts I'll make a comment. There are times when you may actually want to (nobody wants to, how about- it is better to) dethatch than aerate. Thatch is not necessarily a bad thing for a lawn, but excessive thatch is bad (over 1/2 inch of thatch layer) Certain pests and diseases live & thrive in the excessive thatch layers, so if the lawn is suffering from those kinds of problems (I read this somewhere but can't remember the source) it might be better to dethatch & remove the contaminated thatch instead of aerating & leaving the potential problems lying on top of the lawn to create more problems. Its been my experience that excessive thatch has resulted from poor mowing practices by homeowners using homeowner mowers. I've dethatched a few lawns that I had taken over that were in real bad shape & haven't dethatched again for 2 -4 years now. Other than that, I agree with all of the other points made. Wish I had one o' them Walkers!


LawnSite Senior Member
South West PA
Charge through the nose for dethatching. Remember that a spring tine unit will not do as thorough of a job as a flail reel or slicer unit.

I have successfully reduced a thatch layer from 1" to about .5" in just over a years time by aerating the lawn 4-5 times.


LawnSite Fanatic
N.E. Wisconsin
True the vertical cutters do a very good job but on the lawns that I have done (100's) only a very few have a thick (+1") of thatch. The spring tines are easier on lawns with less thatch as they dont tear up as much of the new growth in the spring as the flail's do. The spring tines give a much nicer appearance to the lawn and it does kick up thatch, sticks , leaves and if you are really lucky you can push willow tree droppings all over with the tines. Also the spring tines scarify the top surface of the soil and bottom line is , its MUCH easier on the operator.

If I have a heavily thatched lawn I will spend extra time making multiple passes at different angles and vacuum up the debris. I have not had one complaint in 5 years of any kind related to thatching and like you said jaclawn , its possible to charge thru the nose not to take advantage of someone but because I provide a service that is pretty difficult to do by hand.


Millenium Member
Rick, sorry for taking so long. I have not found a lawn yet that needs dethatching in the 4 years I've been in business. You can look at how the thatch level is by pulling a plug with a toil test spike, or when you aerate just pick up the plugs and examine the top. You will see the thatch as it will fall off easy. As Bob said 1/2" or less is fine and no dethatching is needed, above that and I would consider dethatching.

On a lawn that has over 1/2" of thatch I would give strong consideration to either tilling or aeravating if the current grass is thin or nearly bare. This will allow you to do everything with one tool.